Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Darwinia (Completed)

Darwinia by Introversion is a strategy game much like Populous, who's sequel Populous In The Beginning also used 2D spates on a 3D background and required the player to travel around a big map from mission to mission killing the other coloured guys. This game is certainly inspired by Peter Molyneux's work, right down to copying the gesture system from Black & White (more on that later).

Darwinia opens with an amazing sequence that immersed me right into the feel of the game. Dr Sepulveda welcomes you to Darwinia and explains that a nasty virus has infected this virtual world and is killing his life's work, the Darwinians. The supposed result of genetic algorithms.

It is your job to create units, and retake Darwinia one area at a time (tis a ye-olde-strategy game). The graphics are nice, the sounds are original (inspired by 80's gaming soundtracks) and the interface is workable. I say workable because to create units you must use a simple mouse gesture system. This is all good and nice, but I don't see the advantage over a traditional button system. You could argue that it frees up the gaming screen (like it did in Black & White), but to use the gesture system you have to access an alternate screen and then draw the gesture with the mouse. Frankly it would have just been simpler for them to have shoved some buttons on that screen instead. I didn't have a problem drawing gestures, but in the heat of battle getting a gesture wrong is a minor annoyance.

The game's levels look great, the art direction is splendid and seemingly original, although the engineer units look like those big flying things from Tron and that stuck with my through the game, because in Tron they are the bad guys and i couldn't shake the notion that I was the invading force in Darwinia.

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Darwinia (Engineer Unit)

Based of that I can't say that Darwinia is a completely original game, although they where very close to creating one and i am not sure a 100% original game is what they had in mind.

Darwinea's difficult is ramped up through the levels by increasing the number or units you face. Later on they introduce machines that produce enemy units on a massive scale and since you can't die or lose a game, it is just a matter of time before each level is completed. This sounds stupid and it is because some of the levels initially look like long slogs and they are, each level is just a matter of time.

I don't want to spoil anything, but the last level in the game is either incredibly easy or impossible depending on which island you attack first and this is all because of those enemy respawning machines, so I guess you could argue that they did think about balancing the game, but I don't consider increasing the number or enemy units to be a particularly fun or intelligent way for games to increase level difficulty because it always ends with horde-killing.

One-thing that made me taken aback was the inconsistency in the story. When you first arrive in Darwinia Dr Sepulveda says he doesn't know what happened, but at the start of the last level he reveals to you that he actually knew exactly what happened, and he doesn't acknowledge that he lied! It's kind of like "No I don't know he killed your dog" then "he had an evil look in his eye when he did it", WTF!
And in the end-sequence he mentions the Soul Destroyers! THE WHO!
I can only assume he is referring to the virus, but I have no idea and frankly inconsistencies in story are normally unfortunate, but appalling in a game this small.

Darwinia is not worth £30 (too short). Darwinia is partially fun, partially rewarding, but as an overall experience I question some the the team's design decisions.